Coalition of 30 conservation and recreation organizations announces recommendations for Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests

North Mills River Sharing Trails Photo by Christine Vigue of Back Country Horsemen of Pisgah_1

From the Wilderness Society

Press release

(SYLVA, NC)—A coalition of conservation and recreation organizations recommends more trails and better public access as well as backcountry and wild areas for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, according to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) developed by the coalition. The coalition is submitting the MOU to the U.S. Forest Service as part of the ongoing forest plan revision process for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests.

The coalition includes Access Fund, American Alpine Club, American Whitewater, Back Country Horsemen of America, Back Country Horsemen of Blue Ridge, Back Country Horsemen of North Carolina, Back Country Horsemen of Pisgah, Back Country Horsemen of Western North Carolina, Black Dome Mountain Sports, Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, Carolina Adventure Guides, Carolina Climbers Coalition, Franklin Bird Club, Friends of Big Ivy, Ground Up Publishing, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, Highlands Plateau Audubon Society, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), MountainTrue, Nantahala Area Southern Off-Road Biking Association (SORBA), Nantahala Hiking Club, North Carolina Horse Council, Northwest North Carolina Mountain Bike Alliance, Outdoor 76, Outdoor Alliance, Pisgah Area SORBA, Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures, Southern Appalachian Plant Society, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS), Stay and Play in the Smokies, The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited – Unaka Chapter, and Wild South.

The idea driving the coalition is simple:Western North Carolina’s national forests are the region’s greatest public asset, and should be protected for their inherent beauty, biodiversity, and their many values. Recognizing that Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest is in the top three most visited national forests in the United States, the proposal acknowledges the economic importance of these forests for recreation and tourism, and recommends management of these assets in a responsible manner that is both environmentally and economically sound. The management and designations proposed by the coalition extend stronger protections to more than 365,000 of the national forest’s nearly 1.1 million acres including two new National Recreation Areas and more than 109,000 acres of recommended wilderness.

Key recommendations within the proposal:

● Two new National Recreation Areas for Western North Carolina: a 115,573-acre Pisgah National Recreation Area and a 57,400-acre Grandfather National Recreation Area that will protect these areas from resource extraction and ensure that their unique natural beauty and ecological diversity are maintained for future generations, while recreation use such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, kayaking, and climbing is planned and managed for as a long-term priority. National Recreation Areas will formalize recreation access in key points of our forests, and would allow for the establishment of sustainable infrastructure to prevent damage to the areas while preserving recreational opportunities.

● Wilderness protection for 109,961 acres in the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests. Hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and hiking are among the many activities that would be welcomed in these areas. While the Forest Service can recommend wilderness, it would have to be approved by Congressional legislation and signed into law by the president.

Those who support the recommendations put forth in the MOU can help by providing public comments to the Forest Service that both endorses a plan that provides more public access and recreation, and protects more of our backcountry and wild places.

Comments can be submitted via email at or via mail at United States Forest Service Supervisor’s Office, 160 Zillicoa St, Suite A, Asheville, NC 28801.

About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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16 thoughts on “Coalition of 30 conservation and recreation organizations announces recommendations for Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests

  1. mIke eagan

    Why would bicycles be excluded from the 109,961 acres of proposed Wilderness? Hikers and horse riders are welcomed to use trails, go off-trail and explore, ride or hike as singles or in large groups, but those who enjoy the freedom of a bicycle are excluded? Excluded due to the vain and self-serving interests of some of the groups involved in this coalition. Let bicycles and those who enjoy them have the same experience as those who enjoy horses and boots.

    • David Whitmire

      Mike , this should have been called a MOF, MY OWN FOREST. Our forest are and have been protected by the US FOREST SERVICE, These folks don’t trust the FS, So they recommend two types of congressial designations. Who do you trust more the Forest Service or Congress.

      • mIke eagan


        The FS manages the forest but has to answer to Congress and to the people. However, recent statements by high ranking FS have shown that they are moving to exclude groups because other groups tend to bring litigation. It happened in western NC at the Telico area. Bad science, the strategy of crying wolf and an environmental group with deep pockets ruined a community.

    • Mike Vandeman

      Why can’t mountain bikers EVER tell the truth????? You have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else (as long as you aren’t too LAZY to walk)! Sheesh.

  2. David Whitmire

    Mike, I agree 100% on how this mou will tear communities apart. The forest belongs to all but the counties and communites live within. Multi- use must be supported ,. And any changes to management must be backed sound sceince and County and community support. Once congress designate s, it’s there you must go to give public input. At least now on un congressional designated areas the public has a right to comment to the Forest Service directly. Learn more about a grassroots wildlife , multi use , who supports our wildlife and forest managers, that protect ourforest,water and Wildlife. Multi use is what these forest is all about. On Facebook. WNC WILDLIFE

    • Mark Sullivan

      Would you care to explain to me how this coalition and MOU will tear apart communities? I’m interested to see how you came to that conclusion.

      • David Whitmire

        Thanks for taking time to ask. One thing the signrrs of the MOU failed to do. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council will be sending out a response to the mou with in two weeks. It will go into detail. Many of the questions you just asked. I will forward you a copy. Happy New Year.

      • Mike Vandeman

        You won’t get an honest answer, because it’s a LIE. The only people “forcing” mountain bikers to oppose Wilderness designation and “tearing apart communities” are the mountain bikers themselves, and only because they are too LAZY to walk like everyone else. They PRETEND to be “excluded”, because they think they have the right to do whatever they want to on public lands. The courts have already determined that there is no “right” to mountain bike. The Forest Service is correct to ban bikes, because they are harmful to people and wildlife for whom the wilderness exists.

        • Mark sullivan

          Mike. If the Wilderness designation were to be true to it’s intent they would ban horses along with bikes. Horses do far more damage to a natural surface trail than peds or bikes could ever hope to.

          • Mike Vandeman

            BS. First, horses are wildlife (the horse evolved in North America, after all). They don’t damage nature, they ARE nature. Second, mountain bikes allow one to travel several times as far as any other mode of trail travel, thus doing AT LEAST several times as much damage. Next you will be saying that deer damage trails, so deer shouldn’t be allowed on trails. Even if horses do damage trails, why do you want to damage them SOME MORE, by adding mountain bikes????? Obviously, because mountain bikers don’t CARE how much damage they do, as long as they are allowed to bring their erosion-generators onto the trails!

  3. I hear you about the issue with mountain bikes being excluded from wilderness areas. This is also a concern of mine and I am a supporter of the Sustainable Trails Coalition. That said, when I read about this same MOU proposal from the coalition from another source it stated that none of the existing mountain biking trails are in the areas which are proposed for wilderness. So I think this is actually a win for the community. It would extend protection to our existing trails, increase the area which is managed for recreation and could include future trails, and would also offer additional wilderness areas. Here is the link to the other article I saw: It includes a map of the areas affected. I’m in the Raleigh area, and though I visit Pisgah from time to time I don’t know the area well enough to be certain. Can some of you locals look at the map and tell me if we would be loosing some existing mountain bike trails to the borders of what is being proposed as wilderness in this MOU?

  4. Apparently mountain bikers care only about access for their bikes. Luckily, there are people who care about protecting the wildlife and other trail users, who oppose mountain biking anywhere but on paved roads. Mountain biking doesn’t become benign just because it’s outside an official Wilderness! To the wildlife and other trail users, it is harmful in either place.

    • Tony Keys

      Mike Vandeman, didn’t you get convicted of assaulting mountain bikers in California? I don’t think that the people of NC need to deal with your particular brand of “environmentalism” Please go back to your hateful old hole and stay out of other people’s business.

      • Mike Vandeman

        Nope, charge DISMISSED! Thanks for demonstrating exactly how dishonest mountain bikers are. Why can’t mountain bikers EVER tell the truth? Because if they ever told the truth, no one would allow them to mountain bike!

        • Tony Keys

          I stand corrected. And if you read my post, I was asking a question. But I will give you that it was loaded.

          If anyone has any doubt as to how Mr. Vanderham comports himself just do a quick Google search of his name. You will find that he has a long and storied history of harrassing Mountain bikers online and distributing dubius claims as to the effects of mountain biking on trails, wildlife, and ecosystems. I honestly hadn’t seen his name pop up for quite some time and thought that he had gone away.

          Mike, seriously, leave these people alone. Look at the list of signatories on the MOU. This is a big deal. It shows that trail users can get together to protect natural resources and access for all. I know that is anathema to your beleif system, but this isn’t your fight or your place. That is unless you’ve moved from Berkley to North Carolina.

          • Mike Vandeman

            I already proved that you are a liar. Your reply only re-confirms that. You don’t have a clue what “protect natural resources” means. It doesn’t mean “destroy wildlife habitat for frivolous, environmentally destructive wreck-reation”, which is what mountain biking is. I don’t “harass” mountain bikers; I tell the truth about the harm that mountain biking does. That’s what mountain bikers think is “harassment”. That only shows how utterly dishonest they are, which you have twice confirmed.

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